Garden Tour: The Everything Garden

Cavanah garden showing Guizhou artemisia flower spikes
Though just the size of a suburban yard, the garden of Dolores Cavanah includes everything a gardener could want.

In her one-third-acre garden, Dolores has integrated just about everything you can envision in your landscape: water features, perennial beds, seating areas, a rose garden, a vegetable garden, vine-covered arbors -- well, there's more (and she has plans for even more).

Left: A grassy path out front weaves through a tiered tapestry of flowers and foliage. An ornamental bee skep made of twigs (lower right) acts as a signal of something ahead: Across the turf lies the stone walkway to the front door. This is the site of Dolores's first garden at her new home -- a vegetable patch.

"I've always been a gardener," Dolores says, and it's easy to believe her. "But it's not that I've had any formal training," she says, and it defies belief. "I just do what I think is going to work. I'm inspired by other people's gardens, from garden tours, from reading books. You can always learn something."

Left: Granite boulders have been placed to serve several functions: as retaining walls in raised beds and terraces, as steps wide enough for two to walk abreast, as stepping-stones in paths, as coping around water features, and as sturdy footing to display garden art. Plantings in strategically placed nooks and crevices soften the look of the massive rock.

Dolores's first garden here was misplaced. She put her vegetable garden right outside the front door. And why not? It was handy. That lasted two seasons. "Then I started expanding the garden, and realized that space was too important for vegetables."

Left: One of two ponds in the garden, this one includes a bench and is situated among Japanese maple, Chinese wisteria, quaking aspen, weeping birch, and Persian parrotia. Near the bench, the pink flowers of foxglove are set off by the white 'Snowmound' spirea and variegated hosta.

So the veggies were shoved aside -- still, interestingly, out front, but in an out-of-the-way spot -- and a richly layered perennial garden was created, flowing from the road right up to that front door. And how was such a multifaceted interplay of color, texture, and silhouette designed? "It just sort of evolved," she says.

Left: From her back deck, Dolores can look down on her two ponds and waterfalls, as well as the vibrant mixed shrub and perennial gardens that embrace them.

"Everything in the entire garden is always moving, changing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. There are always opportunities to create interesting designs. I can keep doing this forever."

Left: The garden's water features are accented everywhere with artwork, seating, and even a bridge.

Dolores created her gardens so that they could be seen from the many windows of her house on cool or drippy days. But the view is probably best from her large deck overlooking the ponds, and outside is where she likes to be. "Once I was settled into my house and I got everything I needed for the interior, I didn't have room for anything else. Then I began on the garden," she says.

Left: A series of paths lets guests view the large cascade from several vantage points, even above. Says Dolores, "The whole pond area was a big, huge, wonderful ongoing project."

The garden is Dolores's creative outlet. "I can keep on adding things here, like garden objects and furniture." And so bent-twig chairs are found "just driving by a funky little store." Metal scrollwork is snapped up in an antiques shop. A coveted arbor vanishes from a storefront window, and its creator is tracked down. Storm-felled trees become garden art. A cut-glass Victorian doorknob gets placed on a rustic garden gate.

Left: Climbing roses and hollyhocks enrobe a rough-hewn log arbor near Dolores's front door.

Through it all, Dolores repairs her ponds, clears rock, replaces rock, makes pickles and hot pepper jelly, freezes corn, cans creamed corn, and sometimes plants flowers long past dark, and still she finds that she enjoys absolutely everything.

Left: Fencing made of fallen trees from her property is laced with deer netting to protect the oval production garden. Dolores shares produce with her family, and she makes a sea of soups.

Left: Twig chairs on the deck offer one of several opportunities to relax and enjoy.

Left: An ornate stone bench provides a perch from which to enjoy the garden.

Left: A young catalpa tree creates a golden counterpoint to the dark green needles of the Japanese black pine behind it and the red Queen of the Prairie flowers below.

Left: Dolores finds spots for ornaments, such as a birdbath, throughout the garden. In addition to providing water for wildlife, she also plants shrubs that produce berries like red huckleberry.

Left: Sedum, nestled among the granite boulders, helps soften the look of the massive rock outcroppings.

Left: Ruby red hollyhocks are among the first, and most dramatic, flowers that greet visitors to Dolores's home.

Left: A young sourwood tree grows up among blue salvia and the shooting-star-shaped blooms of Allium shubertii.

Left: Clematis add color to the garden.

Left: 'Guizhou' artemsia flower spikes veil a view of the garden.

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